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Ionic liquid processing of cellulose.

ABSTRACT

Utilization of natural polymers has attracted increasing attention because of the consumption and over-exploitation of non-renewable resources, such as coal and oil. The development of green processing of cellulose, the most abundant biorenewable material on Earth, is urgent from the viewpoints of both sustainability and environmental protection. The discovery of the dissolution of cellulose in ionic liquids (ILs, salts which melt below 100 °C) provides new opportunities for the processing of this biopolymer, however, many fundamental and practical questions need to be answered in order to determine if this will ultimately be a green or sustainable strategy. In this critical review, the open fundamental questions regarding the interactions of cellulose with both the IL cations and anions in the dissolution process are discussed. Investigations have shown that the interactions between the anion and cellulose play an important role in the solvation of cellulose, however, opinions on the role of the cation are conflicting. Some researchers have concluded that the cations are hydrogen bonding to this biopolymer, while others suggest they are not. Our review of the available data has led us to urge the use of more chemical units of solubility, such as 'g cellulose per mole of IL' or 'mol IL per mol hydroxyl in cellulose' to provide more consistency in data reporting and more insight into the dissolution mechanism. This review will also assess the greenness and sustainability of IL processing of biomass, where it would seem that the choices of cation and anion are critical not only to the science of the dissolution, but to the ultimate 'greenness' of any process (142 references).